Possible funding cuts in the U.S.

Sharing a blog post today from Science Politics about possible reduction in science funding in the USA. One thing that really puzzles me is the government’s solution to fund existing grants lower than the levels they were promised. Maybe I’m just getting confused here, but if you promised a project you would fund them at $100,000 and then, after they’ve already planned their project and perhaps even started it, hired staff, etc., then you say they can only have $90,000? What they’ll end up with is a bunch of really crappy half-arsed projects that won’t tell us anything useful. I know this is in response to a possible sequestration in the US, but the Australian government pulls something similar over here. The main funding bodies are notorious for cutting projects when awarding the grant. Let’s say you work out very carefully that you need a budget of a million dollars to do a research project and to do it well, and to answer scientific research questions validly. It’s not uncommon (in fact it’s almost the default) to be cut by at least 20%, often more. But the funding bodies still expect you to adhere to the same rigorous scientifc method and to do the project as you proposed. But you are supposed to magically do it with less money. And what usually ends up happening is that you have some pretty unhappy RAs doing the job of at least 3 people to get stuff done. If governments are really strapped for cash, why don’t they make a policy of funding projects to the full amount that they ask for, and fund less projects?

Science Politics

Yesterday the National Institutes of Health released their “NIH Operation Plan in the Event of a Sequestration.”

Main points:

  • Existing grants (non-competing continuation awards) will continue to be funded at levels lower than promised (usually at about 90%) due to the Continuing Appropriations Resolution for the 2013 US budget. 
  • If sequestration occurs, NIH will 1) reduce final 2013 funding levels on existing grants (i.e. not fund the remaining money to reach 100% promised for each grant).  2) make fewer repeated competing awards (i.e. fund fewer first time grant applications). 3) individual NIH Institutes and Centers will each announce their own specific approaches for budget allocations that will “maximize the scientific impact” while still meeting the new lower budget level.

Important note – the Continuing Appropriations Resolution of 2013 only runs until March 27th, 2013, so before this time, either another continuing resolution or a budget for FY 2013 must be passed (or a government shutdown will occur)…

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